Time to Scuttle Lions Gate Bridge Closure Deal

April 17, 2015

By Jordan Bateman 

Ever wonder how governments hide outrageous plans that put ideology above citizens? They bury them in obscure reports with boring names.

Ever wonder how governments hide outrageous plans that put ideology above citizens? They bury them in obscure reports with boring names.

Take for instance the plan on the books to close the Lions Gate Bridge to private cars and trucks.

Yes, you read that right. There is an agreement in place between TransLink, the City of Vancouver, ICBC and the provincial government to ban cars on the Lions Gate Bridge in less than 15 years.

The agreement, signed back in the year 2000, would remove private vehicles from the bridge on January 1, 2030. The deal was a quid pro quo to get the City of Vancouver’s permission to take down several trees to expand the Stanley Park causeway – the road feeding the south end of the bridge.

The province cut a deal in which they sold out the essential needs of hundreds of thousands of North Shore residents in exchange for the right to chop down a few trees.

2030 seemed a long way off in the year 2000. But we’re already halfway there – and no one seems to want to take the lead and scuttle the plan.

The agreement suggests a third crossing of Burrard Inlet should be built to relieve the pressure on Lions Gate before closing it to cars. However, no new tunnel or bridge is included in the more than $10 billion of proposed spending announced by the TransLink Mayors and the provincial government over the past year.

The TransLink building plan of $7.7 billion, which we are now voting on to fund with a PST hike, includes no plans for a third crossing. In fact, all it promises to help commuters get to and from the North Shore is a third seabus, which is a pretty poor substitute for the Lions Gate Bridge.

With less than 15 years left, it’s a fair question to ask: is this happening? The agreement is still in place. Will Mayor Gregor Robertson use Vancouver’s ownership of the Stanley Park Causeway to ban private vehicle traffic on Lions Gate? Vancouver’s Transportation 2040 plan leaves the door open: “The City will work with partners to determine whether this agreement should be rescinded, as well as any other appropriate actions for this regional issue.”

Talking with partners? Sounds reasonable. But remember who was not included in the deal back in 2000: any of the North Shore municipal governments! Those taxpayers have the biggest stake in being able to cross the Lions Gate Bridge.

Needless to say, this is a significant concern. Last year, the District of West Vancouver’s engineering director wrote the province asking for clarity on the deal as part of B.C.’s new transportation plan.

The response in the province’s new On The Move plan? Crickets. Not a single word about the deal or Burrard Inlet crossings.

So what’s the status of this agreement? Is Robertson ready to publicly announce that the Lions Gate Bridge will be closed? Could Vancouver just unilaterally close the causeway and choke out Lions Gate traffic on January 1, 2030?

Given Robertson’s philosophical views on cars, is he willing to rip up the agreement? As a member of the TransLink Board of Directors, will he use his influence at TransLink to try and prop up the deal by suggesting that a third seabus is enough to qualify as another crossing of Burrard Inlet?

The North Shore already gets a raw deal from TransLink and the region. As West Vancouver Mayor Michael Smith noted, his city could provide its community Blue Bus system completely free with the money West Vancouver ships off to TransLink every year in taxes.

North Shore commuters deserve clarity from the transportation minister, Vancouver mayor and TransLink board. Are we headed toward a 2030 showdown between Vancouver and the North Shore, with commuters held hostage?